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Ely, Nevada

Steeped in History of The "Old West"


Photo of Teri Laursen
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With the culmination of the Nevada's Sesquicentennial Celebration fast approaching, it seems fitting that we dedicate this month's article to a town that is steeped in history -- Ely, Nevada. Just short of four hours north of Las Vegas sits the historic town of Ely. It was first established as a stagecoach stop along the famous and short-lived Pony Express and Central Overland Route.

An overnight visit to Ely can quickly bring the “old west” back to life. While there are many fabulous places to stay in the area, one hotel that stands out as a historical landmark is the Hotel Nevada and Gambling Hall. Located in the center of downtown Ely, this six-story icon remains a favorite for travelers seeking a sense of the way things used to be.

Hotel Nevada and Gambling Hall - Ely, Nevada

The hotel was originally built in 1929 and beat out the Mizpah Hotel in Tonopah as the tallest building in the state, a title it held until the 1940's. The 67 rooms are all unique with period décor, many themed with colorful characters from the past and reasonably-priced. There's a sign in the bathrooms warning patrons that due to the age of the building and pipes, the temperature of the water may not remain constant. It only adds to the charm of the place. The casino and restaurant aren't lacking in décor either. If it weren't for the addition of flat screen televisions and electronic games, this really could be a page out of the history books!

Another National Historical Landmark exclusive to Ely is the Nevada Northern Railway. This railroad is the last of its kind to operate in Nevada and is now referred to as “The Ghost Train of Old Ely”. The 56-acre complex with its diesel and steam locomotives, museum, gift shop and numerous other structures are preserving and honoring the era of the railroad! The train, like the rooms at the Hotel Nevada, is often themed to celebrate the holidays.


During the month of October, the Nevada Northern Railway transforms into the Haunted Ghost Train of Old Ely. On October weekends, ghoulish scenes appear along the route to frighten even the most skeptic critics. Scenes of UFOs, Headless Horsemen, Ghosts, Haunted Tunnels and mysterious campfires line the tracks for Halloween.

Nevada Northern Rail Road Museum  - Polar Express, Ely, Nevada

Hot chocolate and cookies are served up when the Nevada Northern Railway begins its long journey to the North Pole as the Polar Express on weekends from late November through the month of December. Santa's helpers share the story of the Polar Express until Santa arrives to greet the passengers. Believers are given a souvenir silver bell from Santa. Christmas carols make the return trip to Ely magical.

Polar Express - Teri Laursen with Santa Claus

It is not unusual for the Ghost Train or the Polar Express to sell out so be sure to call ahead (866-407-8326) or visit the website at For more information about this and other Nevada destinations, visit

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